Sin taxes, those government levies on products or activities generally deemed as not good for us, typically are a favorite revenue raiser for states. Now Uncle Sam, or at least Capitol Hill Democrats looking for ways to pay for their proposed $3.5 trillion economic package, are taking a page from their state tax counterparts. One of the suggested taxes is a hike of the current federal excise tax on cigarettes and cigars. Another is a new tax on vaping. The House Ways and Means Committee summary of the taxes says: This provision doubles the current rate of excise taxes on... Read more →


One of the biggest challenges for any business, whether new or established, small or larger, is hiring. It's also a challenge for the Internal Revenue Service, especially when companies don't understand or intentionally avoid employment taxes. Money lost from unpaid payroll taxes, both unreported or underreported, is huge, notes a recent Kiplinger's Tax Newsletter, accounting for a large portion of the overall federal Tax Gap. This is the amount of money the IRS is owed, but hasn't been able to collect. Kiplinger cites IRS data from 2019 that found $77 billion of payroll taxes fell through the cracks yearly from... Read more →


The IRS has decided that home COVID-19 tests are allowable medical expenses. This Tuesday was the week from hell, mainly due to dealing — again! — with medical insurance issues. I won't bore you with my personal, and continual, battles with insurance companies over paying for my health care procedures. I will say that even with the coverage, the hubby and I have been able to itemize our — and by our, I mean mostly my — medical costs over the last few years and claim them on our taxes. We're in the minority, both in itemizing and claiming medical... Read more →


The Great Resignation created by folks deciding not to return to their jobs after extended COVID-19 absences has led to a lot of new businesses. That means there a many new bosses out there, most of them dealing with a different part of the Internal Revenue Service for the first time. As business owners, they potentially face new types of taxes. Exactly which taxes depend largely on how their new company is established. That's why selection of a business entity is a major tax decision. Business entity options: As part of 2021's National Small Business Week, sponsored annually by the... Read more →


via GIPHY On a visceral financial level, we all hate paying taxes. But what we hate almost as much is that the tax laws often seem overly complicated or just plain goofy. Take estimated taxes. These are four extra payments that the Internal Revenue Service and many states require taxpayers to make to cover the taxes due on earnings that aren't subject to paycheck tax withholding. Straightforward enough, right? Until it comes to payment deadlines. Even though there are, in most cases, four of them and they're called quarterly estimated tax payments, the IRS uses a calendar that's a bit... Read more →


An overhead view of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the former World Trade Center site, the former location of the Twin Towers that were destroyed by the al-Qaeda attacks 20 years ago today. (Photo courtesy 9/11 Memorial and Museum via Facebook) Today is the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and central Pennsylvania. The annual commemoration ceremony at the New York memorial will be much the same as in prior years. Family members of 9/11 victims will gather on the Memorial Plaza this morning to read aloud the... Read more →


Updated, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, to add just-announced Hurricane Ida relief for some Pennsylvania taxpayers. Just two weeks ago, we were awaiting Hurricane Ida. Since then, Hurricane Larry went spinning into the North Atlantic and Tropical Storm Mindy rushed across parts of Florida and Georgia. Today. Sept. 13, Tropical Storm Nicholas is heading toward a Texas Gulf Coast landfall, after which it will send more rain into already water-logged Louisiana. But we're still dealing with Ida's deadly fallout in states beyond landfalling Louisiana. After coming ashore near New Orleans as a category 4 on Aug. 29, she moved northeastward across... Read more →


Sports betting has expanded beyond casino sportsbooks like this one in Las Vegas. And this NFL season, the league has made deals with seven sports betting companies. (Photo by Kay Bell) The National Football League's 2021 season kicks off tonight with the Dallas Cowboys visiting the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Are you ready for some sports betting, this time OK'ed by the NFL? The NFL reached deals last month with FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet, and WynnBET to be the league's Approved Sportsbook Operators. This means that, among other things, the four legal betting operations can purchase televised... Read more →


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and U.S. President Joe Biden talk during a break of the June 2021 G& summit in Cornwall, England. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz via Wikipedia) A country's leader is going head-to-head with its lawmakers over tax hikes to pay for more social services. But it's not U.S President Joe Biden and Congress duking it out over the proposed $3.5 trillion federal spending plan. It's U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Parliament. Johnson says he wants hike taxes to help pay for England's elder care services. Political + elder care costs: The tax... Read more →


Whatever your reason for moving, be it a temporary disaster displacement or settling into your forever dream home, you need to let the Internal Revenue Service know where you are. Americans typically are a peripatetic lot. We move to be nearer family, to take new jobs, to enjoy the retirement lifestyle we've carefully planned. Other times, our moves are not a choice we wanted to make. After a major disaster, for example, folks who lived in a hard-hit area decide enough is enough. They're outta there. I totally get it. Even though our house in South Florida suffered relatively minor... Read more →


Who hasn't felt this way at work from time to time? This year, after COVID-forced reassessment of their jobs, millions decided to quit. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels) The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things, including workplaces. Where offices stayed open or reopened, there are the coronavirus precautions, such as work station spacing and staff masking. Other offices are allowing or requiring their staff to work remotely. Hello home offices (that, sorry, likely aren't tax deductible) and Zoom glitches. COVID also gave us the worst-case scenario for too many workers. Reduced consumer demand meant some businesses needed... Read more →


With the financial situation of Uncle Sam's retirement benefits program getting more dire, a recurring suggestion — raise the Social Security payroll tax wage base — is getting some traction this year. Labor Day typically marks the end, at least unofficially, of summer. After the early September long weekend, most schools are back in session, albeit still in remote/real classroom combos due to the Delta COVID-19 variant. Workers, many also still in hybrid coronavirus cubicle/Zoom formats, tend to focus on their jobs. Those jobs are critical not just to the employees, but the economy as a whole and to two... Read more →


Of course there's a tax crime connection. A defunct Connecticut minor league hockey club is the focus of a new Netflix documentary. The film's tales of the brawling Danbury Trashers offer this weekend's diversion, along with a bit of a tax connection. I fell in love with hockey when I went to my first game, a Washington Capitals match back in 1981 shortly after we moved to the National Capital area. Those early Capitals' teams sucked majorly. But they had some good individual players. The skills and heart of Rick Green, Mike Gartner, and young American phenom Bobby Carpenter made... Read more →


A distinctive signature has long been a mark of individuality. Take a look at former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's original loops or Donald J. Trump's spikes. But with cursive handwriting being dropped from many schools' curricula, the chance of seeing someone's John Hancock rival, well, U.S. Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock's historic mark are vanishing. And the IRS is helping erase handwritten signatures by allowing more forms to be electronically signed. One non-medical COVID-19 side-effect will have a long-lasting side effect on everyone. More electronic transactions in our every-day lives. That includes our tax lives. About this time last... Read more →


A record number of unemployment claims were filed due to COVID-19 layoffs. But billions of dollars of those benefits went to crooks who falsely filed for them. The weekly jobless reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are always watched closely. They're seen as a sign of how well (or not) the economy is doing. The reports of how many people are (or aren't) looking for work have taken on added significance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest count was good news. BLS' Sept. 2 report showed that the United States saw the least number of new unemployment... Read more →


So how was your summer? Yep, it's over, or will be officially a bit later in this brand new month of September. In addition to bringing some cooler temperatures (eventually, or so promise my local weathermen and women), the ninth month of the year also marks the opening of schools (at least in part, depending on COVID-19 Delta outbreaks), and football seasons (American, not Ted Lasso's version). Tax tasks also are on this month's agenda. Yeah, taxes aren't as fun as football (either U.S. or global leagues) or as welcome as a break from the heat or the kiddos going... Read more →


Damage in the Galliano, Louisiana, area from Hurricane Ida as seen by U.S. Coast Guard overflight on Aug. 30. (Photo courtesy U.S.C.G./VIRIN: 210830-G-G0108-1006M) Hurricane Ida went from Tropical Depression 9 to a category 4 hurricane that slammed coastal Louisiana on Aug. 29 in just about three days. The Internal Revenue Service has reacted just as quickly. Today, the IRS announced that its offering tax relief to Ida victims. That includes pushing the Oct. 15 extended filing deadline (and other tax dates) to Jan. 3, 2022. The tax relief applies to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)... Read more →


Are you missing out on monthly Advance Child Tax Credit (AdvCTC) payments? Sign up today to get in the system and start getting checks starting next month. The Internal Revenue Service will keep sending out the amounts to eligible taxpayers for the next four months. The payments are up to $300 per month for each qualifying child younger than age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child age 6 through 17. They are either directly deposited if you have a financial account or a paper U.S. Treasury check is mailed around the 15th of each month. And... Read more →


Last November, Louisiana voters in 55 of the state's 64 parishes approved sports betting. Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the necessary enacting bills into law in June. And this month, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board passed emergency sports betting rules, effective Aug. 23, to start the licensing process and finalize permanent rules. The process probably isn't streamlined enough to allow bettors to put down cash on the Thursday, Sept. 9, meeting of my frustratingly underachieving Cowboys and the current Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers, which kicks off the 2021 National Football League (NFL) season. But the hope of sports betting supporters... Read more →


Satellite image of Hurricane Ida entering the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Click the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service image to see looping version). Everyone in Hurricane Ida's path better already be on the road out of there or in or heading to some storm safe shelter. This one could be really, really bad. So for this weekend's Saturday Shout Out, I'm turning to items on last-minute preparation for and recovery after a major disaster. Time's short, so here goes, starting with some of Uncle Sam's official government assistance websites. Federal... Read more →